Thursday, February 25, 2010

National Chili Day

The buzz on twitter these days is 'National Food and Drink Days', and there is something for everyone! Almonds, tortilla chips, and many other things on this list...

Leads me to...February 25th being National Chili Day. With Spring not too far away and a chill still in the air, the notion of cooking up something warm and spicy is appealing. Everyone has their own favorite recipe, many handed down from generation to generation.

Chili is a well known comfort food eaten all over the world, with its roots beginning in the early 1800s when the Spanish brought over workers from the coast of South Africa and Canary Islands. The origins of this dish evolved from Berber spices, and slow stewing cuts of meats in clay vessels known as Tagine's; eventually cooked in cast iron pots over open flames in San Antonio, Texas.

During that time streets were often lined with wooden work horses that were covered with planks of wood as the smells of the 'Chili Queen' stews were transported on the breeze. Workers during their lunch hour would come and purchase a bowl, usually with open fire cooked tortillas. This dish is still very popular all across the vast state of Texas (my home state, as I like to remind you!).

The name 'chili con carne' ( literally means chili with meat) often known as simply chili, is spicy stew. The name "chili con carne "is taken from Spanish and means "peppers with meat." Traditional versions are made minimally from chili peppers, meat, garlic, onion and cumin, along with chopped or ground beef. Beans and tomatoes are frequently added. Variations, both geographic and personal may involve different types of meats as well as a variety of spices and other ingredients. Chili can be found worldwide and also in certain American style fast food restaurants.

The variant recipes provoke disputes among aficionados. Chili lovers and cooks defend their personal recipes and hence why many host chili cook-offs in the spring. And speaking of Chili-Cook off, Partners in Wine Club and Rocky Hill Inn will be hosting a Spring Chili -Cook off here in the state I call home, central New Jersey. I will be working with a friend Michael Palmer, and some of my students from the Isle school to make a few pots of 'Texas Red' for the public to vote. We will be up against Rocky Hill Inn, another group and the local Rocky Hill Inn Fire Department.

Will keep you posted, and fingers crossed I also have a chili cook-off aficionado, Buffalodick on our team via internet! This event will be documented on video and presented to you after the fact! My own recipe I have tweaked, but pretty darn close to his recommendation will be used.

Now to the wine pairings: Try a Chilean Malbec or even a Spanish wine. For a complete list of chili recipes or more wine pairings visit Chef E. for suggestions. I have prepared wild game chili, presenting it in a purple bell pepper bowl over creamed mashed potatoes.

I purchased these beautiful purple peppers at a local farmers market a while back, but was disappointed to learn they do not retain their color once cooked. I decided they would make a nice sweet 'fruit' contrast to the spicy game flavor and spice of my chili, and it was a successful match. Not being fond of peppers in chili as it is in the north east I have found, as well as kidney beans, I have learned to adapt. Wild game beef is a wonderful cut to use for chili, with the wonderful blend of spices, and slow cooking process...this batch melted in your mouth.

'Texas Red' is made often in my own kitchen, and I rarely share the recipe. Michael Palmer will tell you that, he twisted and twisted my arms one night trying to get my recipe...he has to wait until we win the competition!

Beans or no beans? How did you grow up eating it? Me, no beans- Pinto, or Mexican soup beans were eaten as a whole other meal, and with corn bread...

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Wine-Down Wednesday- Food first? Or Wine?

Great food and wine pairings begin with the thought that goes into the bottle or menu chosen- but so often combined with our favorite wine paired with familiar ingredients, and a fear of failure can influence our choices- leading to the same ole same ole boring menus.

I find stepping outside of the 'fear of trying' new things, along with new ingredients can lead to wine paring success and a really fun dinner party!

Do you chose the menu first, or buy the wine before choosing the menu?

Do you buy the same reliable bottle of wine each time you shop?

When eating out- Do you chose the food before ordering the wine, or do you order your favorite martini, and bottle then chose the food?

With my menu this past Sunday- Apple Smoked Chorizo Stuffed Lamb,  I stopped in the local retail store, went straight to the Australian/New Zealand section, and began looking around. I already had my main course chosen, so I needed wine. This made since, New Zealand Lamb paired with a New Zealand (or close enough on the map) an Australian vintage.

Grass feed beef that will have similar flavors of the wine- A 'Regional' pairing. 

I needed wine for my chorizo stuffing, as well as a possible wine infused sauce. So often feeling overwhelmed standing in Joe Canal's starring at all those bottles- ceiling to floor, wall to wall bottles. No wonder my husband disappears for hours, as he goes off to do our wine cellar shopping.

Reading label after label can be daunting, but so worth it!

My philosophy (as well as many other experts) is if one is going to cook with wine, you should use a good bottle, and never the store bought cooking wines. Mid-range and in expensive works, but it should pair with what you are drinking as well. They should always compliment each other - The same works for beer!

Being that I want to bring good bargain wines to this Wine-Down Wednesday table, I zoned in on Australian blends, and then zoned in on the price. Set my limit of $10 to 20, and chose this bottle- Pillar Box Red $12

~ Simple rules to pairing food and wine ~

Drink what you like...

What you like to drink always takes precedence over any recommendation that I might make, but it does help if someone you trust has a tried and true recommendation!

Start by thinking about the dish or meal as a whole. What are its dominant characteristics?

Is it mild or flavorful?
Is it fatty or lean?
Is it rich or acidic?

With these characteristics in mind, select a wine that will:
(I call these, 'OLD' rules of food & wine pairing, but they do work)

Keep flavors in balance

Match mild foods with mild wines 
Match big, flavorful foods with big, flavorful wines
(I also encourage to step out of the box now and then!)

Similarly you generally want to match the richness of the food and the richness of the wine.

Cleanse the palate with tannins or acids

If you're eating a relatively rich, 'fatty' dish and thinking about drinking a red wine
(when you eat a beef steak, for example)
you probably want a wine with some good tannins* in it to help cleanse the palate.

If you're eating a very rich, 'fatty' dish and thinking about drinking a white wine, or a red like a Pinot Noir that have light tannic tones to balance the fat...
(when you eat fried chicken, for example)

Match Acids with Acids
(back to balance again)

If you're eating a dish with a strong acidic content
(such as Shrimp with Lemon or Pasta with Tomato Sauce)
pair it with an acidic wine that can keep up with the acids in the food.

Acidic Wines and Cream Don't Mix
(not so true anymore- they have discovered adding a squeeze of lemon changes this!)

Rich cream sauces will usually clash with an acidic wine like a Sauvignon Blanc.
Think about it this way...If you squeezed lemon juice into a cup of milk, would it taste good? 
(Okay, this is an old trick my grandmother used- it makes a quick buttermilk fix for biscuits!)

Wine and Strong Spices

Strong spices, such as hot chili peppers in some Chinese or Indian food,
can clash and destroy the flavors in a wine. In most cases, wine is not the ideal thing to drink, beer is often a better choice.
However, if wine is what you must have, consider something spicy and sweet itself
such as an off-dry Gewurtztraminer or Riesling.
(So old school to me: Only refers to young tannic wines that clash- Pinot Noir & Aged Ripassa can work!)

When In Doubt...

Remember that foods generally go best with the wines they grew up with.
So if you're eating Italian food, think about having an Italian wine.
(This isn't a requirement, but often helps simplify the decision)

Regional cuisine to Regional Wines... 
is always a fail safe pairing tip!

Pillar Box Padthaway Red, South Australia $12- Break this one out at an impromptu dinner party or use for a tasting comparison.

Bold, fruity, jammy (mouthfeel), hints of spice (garam masala, could see it pairing with my 'Chai Marinated Lamb' dish. Bottled for immediate drinking, or has plenty enough alcohol and tartness to see it age gracefully.

During the course of the meal this wine went very well with the lamb- fat vs tannins, but once the food was gone, and I came back to it- I felt it was too heavy for just sipping, so definitely should be decanted,and drank with meal or cheeses. I would definitely buy it again- matter of fact I am adding some extra bottles to keep on hand for future lamb recipes.

Pillar Box Red is a a blend of 65% Shiraz, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% Merlot- considered a 'New World' style of blend, coming from the Padthaway Region of Australia who's terrior was once a sea bed covering vast limestone that influence the grapes, and referred to as the Limestone Coast. Also, a blend technique found in South African Cape red wines. I find many South African wines go well with spiced, African or even Moroccan recipes (not 'hot', or heavy chilies in spice).

If ratings mean anything- Robert Parker gave Pillar Box Red a 90

Don't take my word for it- Go try it for yourself!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

On The Lamb! Balela Mashers

No, I meant 'On The Smoker', the lamb is on the smoker tonight!

Speaking of being raked over the coals, let me vent about some New Zealand Lamb I purchased at Trader Joe's. Two and a half pounds of butterflied boneless lamb that is-

When the package of lamb was opened it seemed ridiculously butchered. Also the layer of fat on the outside was almost an inch thick, I had to cut so much of it away, since we are reminded that lamb is so tasty, but fatty over at Sam @ My Carolina Kitchen post on Braised Lamb Shanks (a beautiful plate of goodness!).

After the lamb was trimmed, there was over a pound of fat taken off that butchered piece of meat. I have a scale (did not think that would be a pretty pic), so I weighed it, and over a pound of fat! For what the price was; it was so not worth it! The lamb was displayed meat side up, so you did not know what it was until you opened it up. I do realize meat can come with a portion of fat, and usually pre-trimmed by the market.

Once I got over that disappointment- I spent a some time pouring over my 'Meat' book and through recipes abound. Wanting to make a new creation, and not the classic rosemary and garlic roasted recipes I was seeing, there just seemed to be no 'spark' that would ignite my creative mind. There were a few recipes using pancetta as part of a stuffing, and that could work. I had chorizo in the freezer from a batch I made last month, and all the rest came to light.

I had so hoped to to open up the lamb, possibly stuffing it in a jelly roll manner, using chef twine to package it up. Oh well. I got some exercise and pounded out the pieces that were left after trimming, and rolled them up with my house made chorizo, red wine, oregano, onion, half a lime juice, and parsley stuffing. The chorizo was taken out of the freezer the day before and about an hour before stuffing, well, when I was done trimming I stuffed each piece and smoked it over some apple-wood chips. Low heat, and about 1 1/2 hours later it was done. Smaller pieces were done before larger ones- Medium to medium rare; which is good, because guest preferred them at different stages.

Balela Mash Side- Upon my trips to TJ's I had discovered a chickpea salad I seem to want to devour weekly, Balela. A quick, simple, and nutritious salad! Balela is a Middle Eastern salad with chick peas, black beans, parsley, and spices. There are variations that use mint, cumin, and other flavorings. The salad is very healthy with plenty of protein and fiber from the beans. I love tabbouleh and hummus, so it is a similar flavor (not so much parsley) combination, but with black beans. In the future I am going to make my own batch of this, my very costly habit, since I keep dried chickpeas on hand. They simply are soaked over night!

I took about seven very small white potatoes and boiled them until they were fork done (soft). Then take one package of Balela from TJ's and placed it into my little food chopper along with olive oil and lime juice (one lime) until it became fluid, moving around the chopper, like hummus. Mash the potatoes, and mix in the pureed balela. The mashed potatoes will soak up any extra oil or lime juice you might add, so extra might be needed. Mix until you get the consistency you want. The potato starch is needed to hold it together, and potato flour could be used in replacement if desired.

This Balela Mashers side was a nice compliment to the lamb. The chorizo did not make the lamb too spicy. Both tasted great! I may even try making fritters from the left over mashers for our meal tomorrow night, to accompany the chorizo stuffed chicken breast I smoked, and then oven roasted. I also made a pan gravy from searing the lamb and some extra chorizo. After the lamb was done in the smoker, I heated a pan with two tablespoons of oil quick searing top and bottom, then set aside to rest. Adding pieces of lamb and chorizo to the pan, I began making a gravy. I put a 1/4 cup of red wine, de-glazing the pan. Then added a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and two tablespoons of POM. Reduce until thick, and then strain.

My first recipe ideas were to encrust the lamb with balela, but then with all the fattiness of the meat, it might not stick; unless used with a starchy flour, or even chickpea flour. So I scrapped that idea. I also realize that not everything we purchase will be the ideal product, and will not stray from my regular reliable meat department! Sorry John, I will never stray again (and it was not even a bargain either!).

Julie @ She Smoke has a great post on the difference between grass feed vs feed, and New Zealand vs American lamb that is great with photos of different cuts!

This meal was paired with a nice bottle of 'Pillar Box Red'...I will talk about this type of wine on Wednesday; it was used in the stuffing and in the de-glazing of the searing pan.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Pork N Peas- POM Recipe

The title reminded me of how much we ate pork and beans growing up, and how fond of simple meals I really am sometimes. If they had made this in a can, I would have loved it. Gobbled it right up! This was a scrounge around the sparse pantry, and after the fact recipe...a why did I not take a photo of the pork on the peas alone thought! Oh well, it was all good, but I did eat the pork and peas in the center before I ate the pasta.

Pom has sent out another package of juice for many of us, and my house is excited to open one upon arrival, and drink it on the spot. With the snow they were nice and cold. I'm sure we all promise to make recipes to our POM representative, but I am finding myself busy, but here it is POM. I had been thinking of using it in a BBQ sauce, but read over at Buffalodick @ Opinions and Rectums We All Got One how he was doing that very same thing. I felt he already has more experience in BBQ Competition over on me, so hmmm, what to do?

I looked over at the counter and saw two limes purchased for my own BBQ sauce recipe, and they were screaming SCREAMING for attention, or bye bye. I did not want them to go to waste...gently Mojo softly whispered in my ear. As I sipped on my little bottle of antioxidant and tasty wonder. POM would give this already great Latin marinade a pink edge.

POM Mojo Marinade

2 cloves garlic
1/4 minced red onion
1/4 tomato bits
5 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons Juice orange
Juice of 2 limes
1/4 cup POM
1/8 teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon oregano
1 tablespoon parsley

Salt and pepper to taste


1. In a small food processor or blender, puree the garlic, oregano, parsley, olive oil, lime juice, cumin, pinch of salt and pepper, and all but the orange juice and POM. Adjust the seasoning if necessary, and reserve a couple tablespoons of the Mojo sauce.

2. In a non-reactive bowl, whisk the Mojo sauce with the remaining orange juice, tomato bits and POM. Add the pork, cover with plastic, and marinate in the liquid for as long as you can bear, at least 20 minutes, even better, two hours. Turn occasionally. Cook fat side up. 300 degree oven- 1 hour, or until tender.

I took the pan sauce and pureed it. Chopped the ribs into pieces and tossed in some of the sauce.

1 Rack of Boneless Pork 'Top Loin' ribs, or regular Pork Ribs (make sure you cook covered tightly or with foil, will help tenderize the meat)
3 cups cooked Whole Wheat Rotini Pasta (cooked in chicken stock & fire roasted tomatoes, garlic as per liquid instructions on package/w dash of olive oil added)
3 cups cooked green peas, preferably steamed

The rotini pasta will soak up most of the liquid during cooking process; add peas in center of pasta, and top off with pork pieces. Do not forget to spoon more sauce on the pork!

'Pork & Pea' Information- This might be a cutesy name for a New American Pub, do ya think?

I typically have fond memories ('Not') of shelling these as a young girl on a barrel in my parents kitchen. My mom would wake us up early on Saturday morning to accompany her to the Dallas Farmers Market. She wanted to load up on fresh vegetable, and take advantage of the cheaper prices of buying in bulk. We would shuck corn and shell peas, along with many other task to prepare for the weeks meals.

I had two vegetables I did not care for unless they were in a stew or soup, and that was cooked carrots and peas. Now that I have learned to like all things 'vegetable'; since then, peas are something that deserves attention.
A pea is most commonly the small spherical seed or the seed-pod of the legume Pisum sativum.[1] Each pod contains several peas. Although it is botanically a fruit,[2] it is treated as a vegetable in cooking. The name is also used to describe other edible seeds from the Fabaceae such as the pigeon pea (Cajanus cajan), the cowpea (Vigna unguiculata), and the seeds from several species of Lathyrus.

P. sativum is an annual plant, with a life cycle of one year. It is a cool season crop grown in many parts of the world; planting can take place from winter through to early summer depending on location. The average pea weighs between 0.1 and 0.36 grams.[3] The species is used as a vegetable – fresh, frozen or canned, and is also grown to produce dry peas like the split pea. These varieties are typically called field peas.

This cut of meat is a cross between tender and not so tender. A strange explanation I found in my 'Meat' cookbook.

Pork loin country-style ribs are made by splitting the blade end of loin into halves lengthwise. The ribs contain part of the loin eye muscle and either rib bones or backbones. They are usually prepared by roasting, baking, braising, broiling, grilling, or by cooking in liquid.

If the bone is removed it becomes the 'Top Loin' cut...

Of major wholesale cuts, this is the most tender, but yet still needs a slow braise due to muscle and fat. It lies in the middle of the back between the sirloin and the rib. The muscles in this section do little for making it a tough ingredient. The top loin muscle with the bone attached is sometimes called 'country style', and depending on the thickness and poundage, you want to braise covered with foil to present a tender meat.

If this was beef- The top loin muscle with the bone attached is called a club steak. When removed from the bone, the same muscle is marketed as New York (or Kansas City) strip steak or Delmonico steak. When the bone is left in and portions of both the tenderloin and top loin muscles are included, the short loin is the source of porterhouse steaks and T-bone steaks. All good with a good marinade!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Wine-Down Wednesday- The Spirit Of Things!

This week on Wine-Down Wednesday I would like to introduce ‘Corky’, Wine Sleuth and resident PI for a new venture, Partners In Wine Club, New Jersey, and online of course! To get in the ‘Spirit’ of things I will talk about several things pertaining food and wine education; spirits; other libations that will be available on our new site, as well what went array in my kitchen just this very weekend!

Over the years running my catering company in Dallas, and then in the north east one of the many questions I get is “Do you have an ideas for cooking with wine”. Sometimes they ask what dish would go best with a wine they have, or vice versa. There are many wine blogs, and plenty of food blogs, but not many combine the two, and add in a spirit or beer into the mix. Partners In Wine Club felt this is a venture well worth the time.

Corky will be looking into a few things for you, and one of them is how he cannot stand going into a restaurant bar area and sitting on very uncomfortable chairs, and would rather them go check out Bar Stools before they just throw a small wooden stool up there. He wants to be comfortable while he is sipping and swirling away!

Now let’s talk about this dessert I made, ummm, well Corky helped too, he wants me to tell you! On a trip to the market for my Valentine meal supplies, I was thinking about making a goat cheese cake. While looking at different ingredients and wandering down the sugar isle a woman was asking the store clerk for Karo Syrup. I had just seen it and told her it was down my way and she thanked me. I had pecans in my hand and she asked if I was making a pecan pie. I said no, but I was thinking of making another type of pie. We began to chat and it turns out she got me all in the mood for a pecan pie, so my original pie idea went hay wire.

I wish I could say I had been kidnapped by a ship full of pirates, because it has rum raisins in it too. Goat Cheese Rum Raisin Pecan Pie, yes, I have gone and lost my every lovin’ cheffy mind haven’t I? No, it was one of the tastiest inventions yet. Hubby said it needed more goo (okay filling), but I thought it was caramelized nutty and savory goodness. Maybe it did need a little more cheese, but the torte pan already over flowed onto my sheet pan, and the remnants of overflowing goo turned into candy. Hard to clean, yes it was; it also fell when I took it out of the oven. Next time- deeper pie pan, and more filling.

Hubby and I sat down with a slice and had a glass of port. Rum and Port? Well the port balanced out the tangy'ness of the goat cheese and rum raisins. Port goes very well with blue cheese, and goat cheese; it also is a nice compliment to most nuts. The port I use for cooking savory dishes is an inexpensive bottle of Six Grapes Port, one of mine and Corky's favorite cooking buddies!

Six Grapes is one of Graham’s original Port marques. It is a big-hearted wine, sourced from the same vineyards (essentially Quinta dos Malvedos and Quinta das Lages) that contribute to Graham’s famed Vintage Ports in ‘declared’ years. As such, it closely resembles Graham’s Vintage Port style: full-bodied, with rich opulent black fruit on the palate and fragrant brambly aromas. We think of it as the ‘everyday Port for the Vintage Port drinker.’ Six Grapes is bottled relatively young (between 3 and 4 years) in order to retain the freshness and vigour comparable to a young Vintage Port.

The distinctive depiction of grape bunches on the bottle is taken from the identification symbols long used in the Graham’s lodge to identify the wines destined to make up the Six Grapes blend.

Dark red color, with a seductive rich perfume of ripe plums and cherries, and on the palate the flavors are complex, with a good structure and a long lingering finish. Earth and plum flavors give way to ripe fruity flavors. Rated- Sweet & has won many medals (Information- Graham's)

I always notice when it is served at wine tastings; it is one of the first dessert wines to go, and I am the first in line! This is one of my favorite fortified wines*.

PS I forgot to mention in Monday's piece about how the economy has affected Lobster fishing prices, and this ingredients is at its all time low in the market, so you do not need to wait until a special occasion to eat lobster, as I did in my ‘I’m In Love Again’ post on Monday! Help sustain their major source of income...

Fortified wine is wine to which a distilled beverage (usually brandy) has been added. When added to wine before the fermentation process is complete, the alcohol in the distilled beverage kills the yeast and leaves residual sugar behind. The end result is a wine that is both sweeter and stronger, normally containing about 20% alcohol by volume (ABV). The original reason for fortifying wine was to preserve it, since ethanol is a natural antiseptic. Even though other preservation methods exist, fortification continues to be used because the fortification process can add distinct flavors to the finished project.[citation needed]

*Fortified wine is distinguished from spirits made from wine in that spirits are produced by means of distillation, while fortified wine is simply wine that has had a spirit added to it. Many different styles of fortified wine have been developed, including port, sherry, madeira, marsala, and vermouth.

Monday, February 15, 2010

I Am In Love Again!

The snow this past week put a halt on my original Valentine post, so I decided Doc @ What Cooking With Doc could have this dish for his site as per his request.

No, I am not in love with Doc! However he is a cutie, can cook, loves to travel, and is a real doctor!

I am IN love however...with my husband, and ALSO with a new product that I found at Trader Joe's...

Dark chocolate covered Edamame…

Yes, they are intriguing aren't they? They also have chocolate covered Pom Seeds, and I cannot wait to play with those in a recipe...

Little chocolate crunchy nibbles, oh I knew there was trouble after the first bite!

I also knew I had to use them in a recipe that you might not expect...a butter poached lobster salad, with endive, leafy lettuce, radicchio, red onion, blue cheese, and dressed with a port wine dressing.

In order to read more and see the finished salad, you have to go over to Doc's site...I am only posting the 'how to' photos here...

For your mise en place you will need-

The key to this salad is making the Port Wine Dressing first- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon honey, 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, 1 ½ tablespoon EVO, ¼ cup (Six Grapes) Port Wine: Mix well.

Clean and prepare to heads of endive, cut in half; 1 small head of radicchio, torn into pieces; 1 small head of leafy green lettuce torn into small pieces; ¼ thinly sliced red onion; handful of blue cheese crumbled; handful pecan pieces, or chocolate covered nuts (I am sure most would work)- dress salad before you add lobster and plate all together. Dressing will go to the bottom of bowl, so sprinkle more just before serving.

Butter Poached Lobster (I used three 1 ½ lb tails):

This is a typical recipe you will find for butter poaching, the only difference is I cut my tails into about ¼ inch pieces, horizontal cuts, and then cooked them.

When you are about an hour from serving the lobster tails, take them out of the refrigerator and bring them to room temperature.

When ready to poach the lobster tails, in a pan large enough to hold the lobster tails and using a thermometer, bring the prepared Beurre Monte up to at least 160° degrees F., but not over 190° degrees F.

Depending on how large and how many lobster tails you are preparing, will determine how long to poach them; it usually takes from 5 to 7 minutes (do not overcook. They should not be rubbery but of a soft consistency (almost as if not completely cooked). The lobster should be white and not very opaque in color. When done, remove them from the Beaurre Monte and serve.

Definition of Beurre Monte: Butter is an emulsification of 80% milk fat, 18% water, and 2% milk solids. Heating butter above 160 degrees will cause it to "break" or separate into its different composition parts. A Beuree Monte is a technique of keeping melted butter in an emulsified state between 180 degrees and 190 degrees, which is sufficient to poach meats or vegetables.

Determine how much butter you will need for the Beurre Monte by placing the lobster tails in a large enough pan, side by side; add just enough water to cover. Immediately remove the lobster tails, drain them, set aside; and measure the water in the pan. You will need this amount of butter to cover and poach the tails.

In a saucepan, bring the 1 tablespoon of water to a boil over high heat; reduce the heat to low and begin adding the chunks of butter (a little at a time) whisking to emulsify. Once the emulsion is started, more butter may be whisked in faster. Hold the temperature of the Beurre Monte between 160 and 190 degrees F. for poaching.

DO NOT BOIL OR THE MIXTURE WILL BREAK! The mixture should have the consistency of a very thick butter sauce. NOTE: Beurre Monte can be set aside on the stove after being prepared. You should use the beurre monte within an hour after you make it.

Wine: Newton Chardonnay, St Helen, Napa Valley, '06, $48-  Complimented the buttery lobster, and all the other ingredients, and when you are done eating, you can sip on some Six Grapes Port left over from the dressing with your dessert! (I noticed online the price varied $32 and up, $69 Dean & Deluca, so I do feel it was mid-range).

I made a Rum Raisin Goat Cheese Pie for our dessert- I will post that with Wine-Down Wednesday...

Friday, February 12, 2010

‘Wild’ Love on a Plate- Holiday Passion

This piece was originally created for Hillary @ Mrs Mo's New Jersey, when she asked me to guest blog. She wanted a healthy approach to the holiday meal. So I talk about making a big statement with ingredients, but eating a smaller portion for better health benefits.I found that I had more to say, so I did a re-write of sorts to extend my 'Wild', Passion, and message of love on the plate for the one you love. Click on her link, and you will read the 'other' post.

Valentine's Day is traditionally a day on which lovers express their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering confectionery, and sending greeting cards (known as "valentines"). The holiday first became associated with romantic love in the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer in the High Middle Ages, when the tradition of courtly love flourished.

Modern Valentine's Day symbols include the heart-shaped outline, doves, and the figure of the winged Cupid. Since the 19th century, handwritten valentines have largely given way to mass-produced greeting cards, and eventually commercially produced 'heart' shaped chocolates.

I believe in the commercialization, and often exploitation of this holiday; it has come to represent passion in ways early celebrators could never imagine. If possible food enthusiast are pushing food passion to newer heights. Passionate about more than their counterparts, they dream of creating edible representations that can display their love to the palate, then passing it on to loved ones.

Let’s put something passionately wild on the plate for Valentine's Day! Although in my house, Valentine's Day is celebrated every day, and I already treat hubby to many of his favorite dishes. He is worth it.

My sweetie likes risotto, super Tuscan wines, and mushrooms of all kinds. He and I both are passionate about truffles and wild boar prosciutto. Wild boar prosciutto is readily available in most markets, but you cannot find fresh truffles; unless you own a restaurant; it is however found in oil and other forms at your local market. Go here and you can order them to come directly to your home 'La Boutique'.

My first choice for our special meal was an endive salad with a few ingredients that included chocolate shavings and port dressing. The snow storm that hit the north east has put a dent in my Valentine meal plans! Since the snow has begun to melt my original idea has made it to the table, but I will post it next week.

However other spur of the moment exotic ideas and creative risk can pay off though if you keep a few ingredients on hand for those 'you cannot leave the house because a blizzard just hit. Thank my lucky stars I had wild boar, risotto, broth, crescent dough, a little cheese, and I have a jar of la tartufata (truffle cream). This might seem like a magic pantry as a friend calls it, but I just splurge for those special occasions.

This meal in many ways is low calorie with a few adjustments. Let me tell you, I have cut back on calories in this dish with less cheese, and no cream! Risotto is in many ways a comfort food, and can be eaten alone, or dressed up with some lobster, crab, or even a nice cut of beef.

Smell the truffle cream? Imagine the Wild Love on our plate...

1/4 pound of wild boar prosciutto thick cut- 1 slice cut into small pieces for risotto prep
¼ of chopped red onion, or onion of your choice
1 teaspoon full of Italian seasonings
1 teaspoon full of garlic, or 2 crushed garlic cloves
¼ cup of dried mixed mushrooms- crumble larger mushrooms with hands (amazing how easy it was), or 1 Portobello mushroom, remove stem, and clean out gills (1 small equals ¼ cup)
4 tablespoons of olive oil
1 ½ cup of arborio rice (risotto- gets creamy consistency as it cooks)
4 cups of stock or broth, preferably veggie stock
1 small jar of la tartufata, or white truffle oil (lasts in refrigerator, good for drizzle only)
1 teaspoon for each serving of risotto as garnish, and for making spread for mini’s
1 scallion per 2 bowls of risotto for garnish (optional)
1 package (sheet) crescent dough- this will be enough for eight mini sandwiches, or substitute with small size baguette, cut into 2 inch horizontal pieces, and slice in half
2 teaspoons of prepared mustard, or mayo- your preference, I just used the truffle spread alone.
1/3 cup of Italian cheese blend- ¼ for risotto, and the rest sprinkled on mini sandwiches
1) Mix together mayo with a teaspoon of la tartufata (optional), I simply used it directly on bread
2) Bake crescents until golden brown, cool, slice in half; set both aside
3) In a 5 quart pot over medium heat add olive oil. Just before smoking point add wild boar (ham), onions and cook until translucent; add Italian seasonings, garlic, and stir well; quickly add risotto and stir, letting it brown a bit (an old south American rice trick I learned in Texas). Then add veggie stock until it just covers the rice an inch over. When risotto begins to boil add mushrooms. Stirring the risotto on a medium heat, uncovered (this is where it is a labor of love) until it begins to thicken, you will need to add stock. Only add stock if rice begins to show, and you know it is not ready yet. Stirring also helps release the starch to create the creamy texture that so many love about this dish. As this is cooking the mushrooms are also soaking up the broth and will become tender to the bite.
This process should only take from the moment risotto began to boil, about 20 minutes or so. Move off of heat, add ¼ cup cheese; stir in well and let sit. Any moisture you do not see at the bottom will soak into risotto.
4) While that is waiting add some wild boar (ham) pieces to the sliced bread of choice, spread la tartufata or mixture, and sprinkle with light cheese. Heat up Panini maker, or griddle pan and cook till cheese melts.
5) Top off the risotto with a dab of la tartufata and scallions. While risotto is hot, stir in and enjoy the orgasmic aroma of the white truffles, and serve with two mini wild boar Panini’s. Add a side of spinach or a salad to complete a healthy recommended meal.
Open up a great bottle of Masi Campofiorin- Baby Amarone (Ripasso) wine in the $15 price range

La Boutique: I have to say that I have received other truffle oils and products, but this IS the best I have ever used and received as a gift to try. I recommend you go over to there site and order some of their products!

LaTartufata-Mushroom, Olive, Truffle Condiment and Sauce is produced in Italy's unspoiled Marche region renowned for truffles. La Tartufata is a versatile condiment and sauce ready to use as is or diluted in chicken stock (after cooking), olive oil or cream.

As a condiment, add to pasta, rice, egg dishes, cutlets, chicken breasts, scaloppine, or on warm crostini as an excellent appetizer. Use also as a stuffing for meat, or as a filling for ravioli and tortellini.

I recommend you do not cook in high heat with this product; it is meant to add at the end of recipe process, or it will lose its truffle strength (only contains 3% white truffle, more of an essence condiment, but worth it!).

Great paring- Yes, hubby and I work well together, but we opened a bottle of Lopez Island Vineyards Cab-Merlot Blend, '05 $15; it went great with the 'wildness' of all the ingredients the next day with left overs! I also found this cute bottle stopper for him to use with wine, or other libations he might want to close up if not finished!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Wine-Down Wednesday- Bordeaux, Part deux

[Just a tease photo; it was served buffet style]

In last weeks post for Wine-Down Wednesday- The Other Bordeaux we have discussed the "complexity and subtle nuances of these wines" (as said in a funny comment by Sandi @  Whistle Stop Cafe). Now 'Partners In Wine' Adrienne and I want to share some other bottles we have tried recently or in the past, as well as my Super Bowl Sunday meal. Her and her husband, AWS friends of ours were having friends over for the game. We talked about it, and it was agreed I would cook, we would video tape the whole experience as a cooking demo and wine pairing as a practice run for future endeavors, and they would provide the wine and beer.

Done deal, and fantastic meal! 

Other the other hand- the behind the scene Super Bowl activities... the grill knobs were completely frozen- AGAIN, lots and lots of who-rah yelling,  and lots of snow shoveling was going on (we had to dig out the grill and our car upon arrival). Of course to be honest with you, I do not know how Food Network employees do not pull their hair out with all the stuff that goes into filming a cooking demonstration. I have done many cooking demos, but not with a camera aiming at me. Adrienne and I were exhausted between scripting, staging, prep, camera set-up decisions, cooking, and the crowd yelling "Where is the food already"! Her and I have decided it was a bad idea to throw it all together on such a momentous day. Next time? We either hire a film crew, or we do it on a quiet sunny day. But Hey the Saints won! My mom was from N'awlins, so I was routing for them. On the positive side...we had good wine waiting!

Back to the kind of 'Wining' you came over here for, right? 

The Menu- Lamb, with lots of other football 'food' snacking going on. Flavors of garlic, tomato, olive oil, paprika, chilies, and creamy yogurt sauce in the buffet line. The lamb does had a finish of Garam Masala that complimented the Bordeaux, but a rather pricey Bordeaux was a big disappointment.

Hands down, we felt the bargain Bordeaux's were better. We will continue introducing them to everyone when we can. Not to mention a left over Amarone (yes, I slipped this one in) from a tasting I have not posted yet; it was the perfect match for the flavors in my menu. Go figure, and it had been opened a week already. As in the last recipe post, we always drink up a good wine in a few days, but we also use the Vacu Vin & Stoppers to remove the air to help stop more oxidation and tainting to stretch it out.

The Wine(s)- Listed are different from last week's WW- Part One and a few more recommendations from other reliable sources. Many believe in the Bordeaux world...anything that runs under $30-40 a bottle IS a bargain!

Chateau Les Roches de Ferrand Fronsac '00 $17, If you can find this rare bottle, it is ready to drink now. An elegant, multi-layered wine. Colored brick red, the wine boasts a plummy, spicy nose and flavor notes of plum, black cherry and cedar. Lovely mouth feel, with just the right amount of tannins to launch a long, slow finish. Mostly Merlot with a splash of Cabernet franc blended in.

Chateau Moulin Haut-Laroque Fronsac '05 $25, This purple wine has a subtle, almost elusive smell of violets and damp earth. The taste is peppery, with notes of berry and oak.

Both of these will go well with grilled meats!

Paulliac Reserve Special, Lefit Barons de Rothchilds '05 $25- This was opened because it should have complemented to lamb, and even the aged mellowed tannins would not fight the heat of the meal. Here’s a nicely balanced, dark garnet Bordeaux from Paulliac worth searching out. Showing black currants and touch of mint on nose, it provides a soft attack of ripe, lush mouth filling black fruit. We felt it fell short of its promise in name and reputation for a list price of $35 per bottle.

Adrienne said- "Maybe I have a sophisticated palette or crazy, but the Paulliac was a disappointment to me last night (we all agreed). I definitely have a palette toward fruit forward, in your face wines".

Bordeaux Undiscovered- Nick Stevens writes about wines the French would prefer to keep... He talks about welsh lamb, and pairs roasted lamb with this wine below. He mentions a dish infusing Paulliac into a dish, but does not mention much else...

Chateau Puyanché, Côtes de Castillon $11.99 US (blog mentions British pounds) -Dark garnet in color with the aromas of blackberry and plum compotés, leather and spices. This bottle is a supple and complex wine, well balanced and silky. As an aromatic wine it will go well with many meats including Duck, Chicken, Pork and Lamb as well as Italian tomato and pesto pastas, roasted aubergines and moussaka.

Unfortunately, I cannot disclose the recipe for this dish because the demo we shot is now in the hands of a television casting company. No more details until after I find out what is going on, and then I will give you a closer look at the dish. This was not a low carb day on all accounts, and I may have to release a bloppers cut on here for fun one day! 

Visit 'Corky' Partners In Wine Club to take a sneak peak at new joint venture. PIWC will be offering New Jersey Food & Wine education in and around the area, as well as 'Networking Partners'. This is something I started three years ago, but was too busy with CookAppeal Cafe; it has been on the back burner. So I am excited that Adrienne Turner has agree to help restart this project.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Skillet Roasted Cardamom Apple Chicken

I was tempted to post the Super Bowl Sunday meal I created, but I already promised to post the recipe instructions for the Wine-Down Wednesday- The Other Bordeaux selections. 'Partners In Wine' Club will post our winning Super Bowl Saints meal with a 'Bordeaux- Part deux' this Wednesday.

Reading Eric Asimou's piece two weeks ago I notice the mention of a spice that I love to play with in my food experimentation in a recipe offered to pair with their suggested Bordeaux' Florence Fabricant

"Hardly show-offs, the Bordeaux wines priced less than $20 are workmanlike, perhaps a little brash, but they are fine to accompany a straightforward plate of food.

A chicken casserole that is satisfyingly sturdy, a little rustic if you will, is thoroughly appropriate for the modest Bordeaux.

For the earthiness of the wines you have lentils. For their whisper of spice, cumin. The radicchio insinuates a bitter edge, to confront the tannins in some of the wines. In keeping with the price, everyday chicken thighs soak up these flavors.

The casserole can be prepared ahead and reheated, but be sure there is enough stock to keep the lentils very moist. Mashed potatoes alongside would not be a mistake".

After studying her recipe I remembered an Indian Fusion recipe I had created for a cooking class years ago infusing apples cooked in cardamom, I decided it would also add to the element of making this rustic dish have a sweet edge to match the cumin lentils, bitterness of the radicchio, and would help balance the tannins of the selected Bordeaux.

It worked very well.

Skillet Roasted Cardamom Apple Chicken (inspiration from NYTimes Article)

Pairings: Chicken Baked With Lentils
Wines of The Times: Exploring Bordeaux’s Other Side


Cast Iron skillet, or suitable casserole 

1 1/2 cups peeled and sliced Gala Apples
- soak in 1 part lemon/lime juice and 3 part water mixture
1/3 cup light brown sugar, or pure cane sugar (remember: Sugar Is Sugar)
2 tablespoons margarine or butter, softened
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom*

- Heat butter in skillet and add apples, salt, nutmeg and cardamom, and 3 tablespoons of lemon water. Cook until apples become translucent. Set aside.

 1 whole free range chicken with skin on, cut into pieces, pat dry 

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups finely chopped onions
2 slices pancetta, chopped into small pieces
1/2 cup finely chopped celery, about 1 rib
4 cloves garlic, sliced
2 teaspoons ground cumin*
2 cups chopped radicchio (chiffinode- ribbons), about 1/2 head, cored
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 cups lentils (French- Lentilles de Puy)

3 1/4 cups chicken stock, more if needed.

Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees

1. Heat oil in a 4-quart ovenproof casserole. Season chicken with salt and pepper and add, skin side down. Sear until golden on medium-high heat, working in two shifts if necessary.  Add 1/4 cup chicken stock to skillet, and bake uncovered for about 20 minutes, then spoon over apple mixture (reserve some for presentation); bake until chicken is cooked through (internal temp of 180 for bone in chicken).

2. In a 5 quart pot add onions, pancetta, celery and garlic, cook on medium until soft and translucent. Stir in cumin. Add radicchio and vinegar; sauté briefly. Add lentils and stock. Cook about an hour, until lentils are tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed, but not all. Lentils should be sauce like but not soupy. Add a little stock if needed. Check seasoning, adding more salt and pepper if needed, then serve.

I garnished dish with some fresh chiffinode- ribbons of radicchio, and apples.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings.

*In last weeks post I mention that this dishes flavor was far more complex, and not so 'straightforward' as the article mentions from my point of view. Why? Because of these-

Cardamom- (typically used in curries, or as pods in Masala Chai) is quite aromatic, but very overpowering in flavor, so use with caution and in small amounts, even with chicken.  

Cumin- (typically used in many ethnic recipes) is commonly used in Mexican cooking (comino) as well as a common ingredient in Indian and Malaysian cooking. It is best lightly toasted then ground in a mortar and pestle. Overused cumin also becomes very overpowering. This dish was right up my alley, and it worked, but be careful in the amounts you use when duplicating recipes. This was their recommendation, along with lentils.

'Partners In Wine' Club Recommendations: (Cool Vines & Joe Canals, Princeton, NJ)

Landot Haut-Medoc '04 $17, Paired well with Cardamom Apple Skillet Roasted Chicken, and Cumin seasoned Lentils. The more it breathed, the better it became as it opened up; dark berry flavors with hints of woodsiness that went well with the chicken, and balanced out the sweetness of cardamom apples sauce I spooned over chicken and side; we felt it could have aged a few more years, and was better the next day.

Note: Normally we do not keep opened wine for more than a few days, and we even pump out the air with a Vacu Vin and stopper; we noticed the wine after a week was still very full bodied and enjoyable. Also a leftover Amarone went very well with this dish!

White Chateau du Champ des Treilles '08 $14.50, as an extra we purchased a White Bordeaux, which on many occasion I have enjoyed White Burgundy as well- We opened this bottle with the dish; it definitely went with cardamom apples and chicken, but not with the nuttiness or cumin of the side. Great with chocolate covered dried cherries we ate for dessert!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Wine-Down Wednesday- The Other Bordeaux

[Skillet Roasted Cardamom Apples, Chicken with Braised Radicchio and Cumin Lentils]

‘Partners In Wine’ Club have already visited a few countries in the recent weeks of Wine-Down Wednesday, so let’s hop over to France, and try a glass of something big and bold!

After reading an article in the NY Times, I decided it was interesting enough to share their point of view along with mine...

“Such is business in Bordeaux. Regardless of the periodic, upheavals that shake out the Bordeaux trade, the region continues to pour out an enormous amount of wine annually. Yet most of that wine is routinely ignored in the public discussion… Instead, the spotlight is on the top tier, the leading Chateaux that account for a very small percentage of the Bordeaux production and yes receive 99 percent of the world’s attention.

But what about the other Bordeaux”
?, the writer Eric asks his readers…

  • Wednesday, January 20th issue- Wine of the Times, Exploring Bordeaux's Other Side, Eric Asimou. You can read the whole article online at
This article raises some good points. There are some good budget Bordeaux's out there that should get attention. From you- the consumer. They should have their day in the spotlight with a good dish on their arm! This caused me to wrap myself up into looking at what my local area stores offer by way of $20, or under French Bordeaux. First, deciding what ingredients to match up, I could look at bottle tasting notes, and take suggestions from retailers to see if the purchases would come close to a well paired arrangement.

In spite of taking Eric's food pairing recommendation, I re-created my own recipe for our tasting.

 [Chateau Lafite Rothschild in Pauillac- from website]

A Bordeaux wine (Wikipedia) is any wine produced in the Bordeaux region of France. Average vintages produce over 700 million bottles of Bordeaux wine, although in good vintages, this total can exceed over 900 million, ranging from large quantities of everyday table wine, to some of the most expensive and prestigious wines in the world. 88% of wine produced in Bordeaux is red (called 'claret' in Britain), with notable sweet white wines such as Chateau d'Yquem, dry whites, rosé and sparkling wines (Crémant de Bordeaux) all making up the remainder. Bordeaux wine is made by 10,000 producers or châteaux from the grapes of 13,000 grape growers. There are 57 appellations of Bordeaux wine.

Unless you are a Bordelais (French for ‘of Bordeaux’); an inhabitant of the city Bordeaux, you will find this wine is one of the most expensive on the market. Why? Because the price is set by demand, and how the vintage is rated by those who sample each year’s vintages. Burgundy is more expensive, and very good. I feel equally towards both when it comes down to opening a bottle, because Bordeaux's less expensive, or little brother as Adrienne would say is more readily available. I feel the wine should match the food I have prepared, or am having out, and you cannot usually find a true Burgundy under $50 unlike a Bordeaux. Once you get familiar with what to look for on a menu or in the store it is worth it!

If you have not had a glass of Bordeaux, please try one of Eric’s and my recommendations below*.

Starting a Bordeaux novice off with an “introductory” wine in the $10-$15 range as a good gradient for training the palate to pick up and appreciate the more subtle nuances of this Old World style is the best way. Finding some ingredients seasoned with specific flavors is also a good way to encourage the novice. To pair this complex wine, so that they get a good feel to see if they can go to the next tier in these big, bold wines.

The articles suggested flavor combination of chicken with lentils, radicchio, and cumin (my addition of cardamom apples) absolutely exploded on their own in the combined plating. The same held true in my kitchen. Once the wines opened up; it was just as described in the post-

"Hardly show offs the Bordeaux wines priced less than $20 are workmanlike, perhaps a little brash but they are fine to accompany a straightforward plate of food". (posted with article above, NYTimes)

Personally, I hardly call cumin and earthy lentils straight forward, but I will explain more in the following post that will include the recipe; as well as more under $20 Bordeaux's...

Eric's Bordeaux Recommendations:

Best Value- Chateau Picau-Perna St. Emilion $16, Fragrant and balanced; juicy and refreshing now, will improve for several years.

Chateau Liversan haut-Medoc '05 $20, Fine, supple texture with savory aromas and flavors of cassis, and flowers

Partners In Wine Club Recommendations: (Cool Vines & Joe Canals, Princeton, NJ)

Chateau Deyrem Valentine Margeaux Cru Bourgeois '00 $48 (great buy for a regular Bordeaux; drinkable now, or aging for a few more years; worthy of a special meal)- will pair it down the road.

Landot Haut-Medoc '04 $17, Paired well with Cardamom Apple Skillet Roasted Chicken, and Cumin seasoned Lentils. The more it breathed, the better it became as it opened up; dark berry flavors with hints of woodsiness that went well with the chicken, and balanced out the sweetness of cardamom apples sauce I spooned over chicken and side; we felt it could have aged a few more years, and was better the next day.

As an extra we purchased a White Bordeaux, which on many occasion I have enjoyed White Burgundy as well- We opened this with the dish as well. Definitely went with cardamom apple chicken, but not with the nuttiness of the side. Great with white chocolate covered cherries we ate for dessert!

White Chateau du Champ des Treilles '08 $14.50, Typically as you know white wines do not have the stems and seeds present when aging, hence they are not red in color (only in case you were wondering the difference), but what differs the white from red in Bordeaux are the grape varietals used-


The rich ruby Bordeaux is usually a varied tri-blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot grapes. With flavors infused with black fruit and wood flavors, each variety’s delicate blend and sundry aging offers its own unique taste once it hits the bottle.


The grapes used in whites are the Sauvignon Blanc- dry, citrusy, grassy flavors with lots of acidity; Sémillon- usually blended with Sauvignon Blanc, its figgy, nutty flavors make up the honey and apricot aromas and rich flavors of sweet whites; Muscadelle- one of the sweetest grapes you can add to make this blend smooth.